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David Villa discusses MLS playoffs, Guardiola’s sustained success and more

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In only the club’s second season in Major League Soccer, New York City FC is on the verge of making its first playoff appearance in club history.

Pro Soccer Talk recently had the opportunity to catch up with the club’s captain, David Villa, as he and his team prepare for the remainder of the 2016 regular season and gear up for the postseason.

On Wednesday, Villa sat down with PST at Tavern on Third in New York City as the former Spanish national team star helps promote Go90 — a mobile application that allows fans to live-stream some of the world’s biggest soccer leagues and matches, including La Liga, Serie A and Ligue 1.

While Villa was focused on the various television screens in the restaurant —all of which were playing Barcelona’s 1-1 draw against Atletico Madrid — the 34-year-old discussed his team’s aspirations with the MLS season winding down.

“It’s our moment now,” Villa told PST. “We need three points to go through to the playoffs. The playoffs is different because it’s a fight for one day or two days. Our goal is make the postseason and then to be better every series we play in.

“We don’t have a spot yet in the playoffs,” Villa said. “If we win on Friday then we’re in but it’s the first goal for us. We need to fight in the rest of the games because it’s not the same to be the sixth spot versus the second or first spot. We need to fight for the last few games before the playoffs so we get a good position.

“It’s only our second season so I think the fans see the team and don’t think they always see it’s our second year. Some teams have been working for over 20 years and it’s different for them. NYCFC is still growing and we’re very proud of that. Of course the objective for our club is to win the trophy at the end. We’re close to reaching the playoffs but we’re still fighting with every other team to get wins and keep up our form.”

With NYCFC holding its playoff fate in its own hands, Patrick Vieira’s group has the opportunity to qualify for the postseason on Friday night against the Chicago Fire, who currently sit in last place in the Eastern Conference.

Villa was quick to give his head coach a lot of the credit for New York City’s success this season, citing his demanding training regiment and tactics as some of the critical reasons why the team is in prime position to not only make the playoffs but make a deep run when the side reaches that stage.

“Patrick is a very good coach,” Villa said. “The most important thing is that he’s come in and had a very clear plan from the first day. Day by day we work in training to accomplish our goals and it’s good for us. For me, I like the style Patrick wants us to play and of course you always need to get the results. So far this year we are doing good because we’re in a good position. We need to finish out strong though going into the playoffs.

USA Today Sports/Vincent Carchietta
USA Today Sports/Vincent Carchietta

While the club’s defensive struggles have at times overshadowed the team’s success in 2016, one of the biggest differences from NYCFC’s inaugural season is the support that Villa has received up front in helping the Spaniard contribute finishing.

The former La Liga star leads the squad for the second consecutive season, with 17 goals in 29 appearances, but the emergence of players like rookie Jack Harrison and ex-Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard have taken the burden off of Villa.

“Of course we are happy to have players playing close to me like Jack [Harrison], like Khiry [Shelton], like Tommy [McNamara] and Tony Taylor sometimes,” Villa explained. “Steven Mendoza is another player as well. Every player that plays up front with me wants to help the team and of course for the attacking players we’re all trying to make good contributions on the pitch.”

While Villa’s focus on his new club is evident, the former Barcelona man took the time to discuss several other topics, including how Pep Guardiola‘s influence has brought Manchester City (NYCFC’s parent club) immediate success.

“It’s good,” Villa said with a smile on his face. “Guardiola has done this at different clubs which is amazing. When I was at Barcelona he was tremendous, going to Bayern he was excellent and now at Manchester City he’s gotten off to a great start as well. He’s good. He’s very good and I’m very proud to have worked with one of the best coaches in the history of soccer and to see him putting up some great results.

“He’s brought great tactics to all the clubs he’s been at and the players really like playing for him. I think City’s start has shown how good of a manager he is. I think they’ll be one of the best clubs for as long as he’s there because he’s very smart and always looking to get better.”

Top 25 players in the USMNT pool right now

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Christian Pulisic is the best American soccer player in the world.

Of this, there is little debate.

But there is a debate to who is second, third, and well down the line, and we’ve got our last chance to really assess the full crop with Major League Soccer now out of season for a few months.

[ USMNT: Most to gain/lose from November ]

Let’s set some ground rules:

  • The ranking is meant to illustrate who would be most likely to positively affect a USMNT match, regardless of manager or teammates, right now.
  • Health doesn’t matter to our rankings if a current injury isn’t one which could drastically alter the player’s skill set moving forward.
  • Age/potential/experience doesn’t matter either, at least not much; It’s how likely you are to contribute to the team if put on the field right now. Obviously Chris Richards of Bayern Munich II is a better long-term prospect than 32-year-old Tim Ream, but most would rather have the Fulham man in a big spot right now.

Top 25 USMNT players – November 2019

*not currently a part of USMNT squad due to injury
**not currently a part of USMNT squad due to coach’s decision

  1. Christian Pulisic, Chelsea*
  2. Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig*
  3. John Brooks, Wolfsburg
  4. Weston McKennie, Schalke
  5. Alfredo Morales, Fortuna Dusseldorf
  6. Sergino Dest, Ajax
  7. Jordan Morris, Seattle Sounders
  8. Matt Miazga, Reading (on loan from Chelsea)**
  9. Josh Sargent, Werder Bremen
  10. Zack Steffen, Fortuna Dusseldorf (on loan from Man City)*
  11. DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle United
  12. Jozy Altidore, Toronto FC*
  13. Tim Ream, Fulham
  14. Timothy Weah, Lille*
  15. Julian Green, Greuther Furth**
  16. Cristian Roldan, Seattle Sounders
  17. Ike Opara, Minnesota United**
  18. Michael Bradley, Toronto FC*
  19. Fabian Johnson, Borussia Monchengladbach**
  20. Cameron Carter-Vickers, Stoke City (on loan from Spurs)**
  21. Tyler Boyd, Besiktas
  22. Sebastian Lletget, LA Galaxy
  23. Miles Robinson, Atlanta United*
  24. Paul Arriola, DC United
  25. Jackson Yueill, San Jose Earthquakes

Next up, established: Antonee Robinson (Wigan Athletic), Walker Zimmerman (LAFC), Eric Lichaj (Hull City), Paxton Pomykal (FC Dallas), Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge), Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas), Duane Holmes (Derby County), Bill Hamid (DC United).

Next up, youth: Konrad de la Fuente (Barcelona U19), Alex Mendez (Ajax U19), Giovanni Reyna (Borussia Dortmund U19), Ulysses Llanez (Wolfsburg U19), Chris Richards (Bayern Munich II), Richie Ledezma (PSV Eindhoven), Donovan Pines (DC United), Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids)

Leaked image shows big fines that face Chelsea rule breakers

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Frank Lampard‘s ready to go into his players’ wallets if they disobey his laws.

A posted list of fines for Chelsea players, signed by the manager, has been confirmed and we would completely understand if the Blues were on time all the time.

[ MORE: Salah out for Egypt ]

A player is fined about $640 per minute he’s late to a meeting, and if he misses a practice, well, wow: The fine is nearly $26,000.

If a phone rings during a meeting, that’s gonna be $1,300.

And if any fine isn’t paid within two weeks, it doubles! Seems like Christian Pulisic and his teammates will have a lot of alarms set on their phones.

From The Telegraph:

Lampard has also banned agents from the training ground, unless on official business, and players must inform the club if they intend to travel abroad, even on scheduled days off.

The average Chelsea salary last season was approximately $6.6 million, meaning players make on average $127,000 per week.

The full list of fines is below.

Kompany: Liverpool’s Premier League title ghosts should ‘be to City’s advantage’

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Vincent Kompany says history could help Manchester City climb back into the Premier League title race even after his former team dropped nine points back of first place Liverpool.

[ MORE: Salah out for Egypt ]

Now at Anderlecht, the center back also said history might’ve played a role in City’s 3-1 setback at Anfield. In a rare bit of explicit honesty, the often interesting Kompany said that players do deal with demons of a club’s past.

“We always struggle at Anfield,” he said, according to Sky Sports. “I said that on Super Sunday, you’re fighting 25 years of not winning at Anfield and that’s difficult, it’s two games in one game: You’re playing a great team and you’re fighting history.”

“Flip it around and the same will happen for Liverpool. They will fight the history of not winning the league for 30 years. That should be to City’s advantage I still think.”

Do you buy that? Most of the buzz around the Premier League is that this Liverpool is a different team than even the dominant one of last season, and City has suffered big injury problems. The Reds players almost went out of their way last year to say they weren’t worried about blowing their table lead last season (which was bigger, later in the season).

Kompany also said that he believes City doesn’t need to add a center back in January, which is bonkers unless he’s coming back, but the Belgian has proven time and again that he’s one of the better minds in the game.

The guy did title  his MBA dissertation, “How professional football clubs in the Premier League can benefit from home game advantage and achieve game-changing levels of improvement” after all. Then again, I’m not sure any of our dissertations on the same topic would’ve been approved had we done that.

Liverpool’s Salah to miss Egypt’s first two AFCON qualifiers

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Good news for Liverpool, not so much for Egypt.

Mohamed Salah will not suit up for the Pharoahs this month as Egypt begins qualifying for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.

[ MORE: Will Zlatan rejoin LA? ]

Salah has been dealing with ankle problems since a rough tackle from Leicester City’s Hamza Choudhury, and it’s acting up following a tackle from Fernandinho in the Reds’ 3-1 defeat of Man City on Sunday.

Egypt needs Salah, but it’s no surprise he’s erring on the side of caution given the tumultuous relationship between the superstar and his country (and Liverpool’s status as a contender in five (!!) tournaments).

Salah, 27, has 41 goals in 67 caps. The next five leading active Egyptian scorers have a combined 31 goals in their careers over 284 caps. The youngest of those is Aston Villa’s Trezeguet (25), followed by Besiktas’ Mohamed Elneny (27).

Egypt are heavy favorites to finish in one of the top two spots and qualify for AFCON 2020, even with the injury. The 49th ranked Pharoahs (FIFA ranking) are in a group with Kenya (108), Togo (124) and Comoros (142).

Egypt hosts Kenya on Thursday to kick off qualification, and visits Comoros on Monday.